- Associated Press - Sunday, July 28, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The brakes on the bus carrying teenagers home from a youth camp in northern Michigan failed as the vehicle exited an Indianapolis interstate, causing it to strike a retaining wall and flip on its side, according to a newspaper report Sunday.

Bus driver Dennis Mauer, 68, told the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department that the brakes failed and he wasn’t able to keep the bus from crashing Saturday afternoon, the Indianapolis Star reported. Three people died and several were injured.

The investigation into the crash, which happened on an Interstate 465 exit ramp, is ongoing, authorities said. Indianapolis Fire Department Lt. Ato McTush said Saturday that investigators had not determined whether the church-owned bus had mechanical issues.

The bus was nearly finished with a 365-mile journey, overturning just a mile from the Colonial Hills Baptist Church. At the church, parents were waiting to pick up their children after a weeklong camp filled with prayer, zip lines and basketball when a bus carrying younger campers pulled in, its passengers screaming.

Jeff Leffew, 44, of Fishers, Ind., sent four daughters to Camp CoBeAc near Prudenville, Mich. Only one daughter was on the bus that pulled into the parking lot, and he raced to the crash site in northern Indianapolis. What he found was a surreal scene, with clothing and other items strewn about and windows missing from the bus.

“You’re just praying that it’s not as bad as it looks,” said Mr. Leffew, a deacon at the church.

His daughters escaped with just bumps and bruises, but others weren’t as fortunate. Indianapolis fire officials said a husband and wife were dead at the scene, along with a third person whose age they didn’t describe. Twenty-six people were taken to hospitals, and one teenager remained in critical condition on Sunday.

Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs called the crash a “great tragedy.”

“They were not that far from home. … That only adds to the tragedy,” Mr. Riggs said at the crash scene. He said there was no indication that the driver had a medical emergency.

Witnesses described a horrifying scene.

Duane Lloyd told WTHR-TV that he heard a loud noise behind him as he was traveling near the intersection and saw the crash around 4:15 p.m. — about the time Youth Pastor Chad Phelps had tweeted that the group would arrive at the church.

“I heard a skid. I looked back. I see this bus in the air and people falling out of the bus,” Mr. Lloyd said. “I could have gone my whole life without seeing that.”

He said people approached and tried to help.

“People were literally trying to lift the bus,” Mr. Lloyd said. “You just try to do what you can do.”

Sasha Sample, 28, told The Indianapolis Star some victims were lying in the road, while others were able to limp to the side.

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